House Republican use First Vote to Gut IRS Funding.

In a meaningless vote because it cannot pass the senate and if it did would face certain veto the new GOP led House of Representatives used their first vote (221-210) to claw back more than $70 billion — or nearly 90 percent — of new funding for the IRS making easier to cheat on taxes.

The republicans said that they were fighting against the weaponization of the IRS and fighting for the middle class. Does it matter who is cheating on their taxes? Obviously a large company or wealthy individual is going to have a team of accountants and lawyers to skirt their taxes. This is money that goes to pay for infrastructure. For schools. For defense. Things which benefit every American.

Much of the funding will go to much-needed improvements to the agency’s computer systems. “Or should we have an IRS that operates the way Southwest Airlines did last week, to the dismay of the American family,” quipped former Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.).

According to the Committee For a Responsible Federal Budget The IRS Funding Repeal could cost over $100 BILLION and encourage tax cheating. Does the tax code need to be made more fair? Absolutely. BUT- it is also our responsibility as American citizens to pay what we owe. Whether you are an individual; A small business; or a giant corporation. No one likes to pay taxes. But no one wants to drive over a bridge that may fall down or have their children attend schools in need of basic supplies.

The GOP talk about a balanced budget but in their first piece of legislation put us potentially in a $100 billion hole. I just wish the House would stop wasting time.

The Importance of Local Reporting.

I’m old(er). When (and where) I grew up there was a local daily newspaper. A local weekly newspaper. A regional newspaper and a few statewide/national newspapers. Often there were articles from the bigger newspapers in the regional or local daily. BUT on occasion the bigger newspapers picked up news from the local papers.

The debacle of the George Santos election and reporting in New York has pushed news coverage to the front lines again. What happened at The NY Times? NY Post? Long Island Newsday?

After the New York Times and other publications FINALLY reported that newly elected Rep. George Santos probably didn’t descend from Holocaust survivors or run an animal-protection charity, or [gestures broadly] any of it, many suggested that it would have been more helpful for the press to dig into this before the election.

“This would all have been exposed before the election if local newspapers were not running on fumes,” tweeted former Senator Claire McCaskill.

A few news cycles later it emerged that actually the local press had reported on the Santos story. A local paper, the North Shore Leader, had declared that the Republican nominee was “most likely just a fabulist—a fake.

It is just an embarrassment. Santos’ entire life is m most likely a lie. Santos is a really just a petty criminal from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is currently wanted in Brazil on criminal charges of committing elder fraud and check forgery. He stole checkbooks from the elderly patients of his late mother – who was a home healthcare nurse – and forged the checks to steal merchandise, according to prosecutors in Brazil.

What is striking is that his new colleagues in the republican party seem to be OK with it. How ironic that Republicans would cast out Liz Cheney, a lifelong conservative, for seeking truths about a different liar, but about Santos, the party of Honest Abe has remained silent.

Now it seems he is being accused of extensive campaign finance violations. Are any of us surprised?

For our democracy to work we need to be focused on more than getting power for a party and keeping power. There are realm issues that need to be worked on.

I want us to be better than all of this.

We’re Going to Miss Their Greed and Cynicism

As I get ready to post this, the GOP is in the middle of an absolute meltdown as they try to elect a Speaker of the House. It may not seem important but the House of Representatives cannot function or do any work without a speaker. Members cannot even be sworn in.

The GOP for close to the last 20 years has been a policy free zone. They have no policies or ideas. Now there is a group of 20 who are basically holding the government hostage. It may seem funny, but this joke is getting old.

We’re Going to Miss Greed and Cynicism

Jan. 2, 2023

By Paul Krugman

It’s 2023. What will the new year bring? The answer, of course, is that we don’t know. There are a fair number of what Donald Rumsfeld (remember him?) called “known unknowns” — for example, nobody really knows how hard it will be to reduce inflation or whether the U.S. economy will experience a recession. There are also unknown unknowns: Will we see another shock like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

But I think I can make one safe prediction about the U.S. political scene: We’re going to spend much of 2023 feeling nostalgic for the good old days of greed and cynicism.

As late as 2015, or so I and many others thought, we had a fairly good idea about how American politics worked. It wasn’t pretty, but it seemed comprehensible.

On one side we had the Democrats, who were and still are basically what people in other advanced nations call social democrats (which isn’t at all the same as what most people call socialism). That is, they favor a fairly strong social safety net, supported by relatively high taxes on the affluent. They’ve moved somewhat to the left over the years, mainly because the gradual exit of the few remaining conservative Democrats has made the party’s social-democratic orientation more consistent. But by international standards, Democrats are, at most, vaguely center left.

On the other side we had the Republicans, whose overriding goal was to keep taxes low and social programs small. Many advocates of that agenda did so in the sincere belief that it would be best for everyone — that high taxes reduce incentives to create jobs and raise productivity, as do excessively generous benefits. But the core of the G.O.P.’s financial support (not to mention that of the penumbra of think tanks, foundations and lobbying groups that promoted its ideology) came from billionaires who wanted to preserve and increase their wealth.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that Democrats were pure idealists. Special-interest money flowed to both parties. But of the two, Republicans were much more obviously the party of making the rich richer.

The problem for Republicans was that their economic agenda was inherently unpopular. Voters consistently tell pollsters that corporations and the rich pay too little in taxes; policies that help the poor and the middle class have broad public support. How, then, could the G.O.P. win elections?

The answer, most famously described in Thomas Frank’s 2004 book “What’s the Matter With Kansas?,” was to win over white working-class voters by appealing to them on cultural issues. His book came in for considerable criticism from political scientists, in part because he underplayed the importance of white racial antagonism, but the general picture still seems right.

As Frank described it, however, the culture war was basically phony — a cynical ploy to win elections, ignored once the votes were counted. “The leaders of the backlash may talk Christ,” he wrote, “but they walk corporate. … Abortion is never halted. Affirmative action is never abolished. The culture industry is never forced to clean up its act.”

These days, that sounds quaint — even a bit like a golden era — as many American women lose their reproductive rights, as schools are pressured to stop teaching students about slavery and racism, as even powerful corporations come under fire for being excessively woke. The culture war is no longer just posturing by politicians mainly interested in cutting taxes on the rich; many elected Republicans are now genuine fanatics.

As I said, one can almost feel nostalgic for the good old days of greed and cynicism.

Oddly, the culture war turned real at a time when Americans are more socially liberal than ever. George W. Bush won the 2004 election partly thanks to a backlash against gay marriage. (True to form, he followed up his victory by proclaiming that he had a mandate to … privatize Social Security.) But these days, Americans accept the idea of same-sex marriages almost three to one.

And the disconnect between a socially illiberal G.O.P. and an increasingly tolerant public is surely one reason the widely predicted red wave in the midterms fell so far short of expectations.

Yet despite underperforming in what should, given precedents, have been a very good year for the out-party, Republicans will narrowly control the House. And this means that the inmates will be running half the asylum.

True, not all members of the incoming House Republican caucus are fanatical conspiracy theorists. But those who aren’t are clearly terrified by and submissive to those who are. Kevin McCarthy may scrape together the votes to become speaker, but even if he does, actual power will obviously rest in the hands of people like Marjorie Taylor Greene.

And what I don’t understand is how the U.S. government is going to function. President Barack Obama faced an extremist, radicalized G.O.P. House, but even the Tea Partiers had concrete policy demands that could, to some extent, be appeased. How do you deal with people who believe, more or less, that the 2020 election was stolen by a vast conspiracy of pedophiles?

I don’t know the answer, but prospects don’t look good.

How Lucky We Are

A month ago we got the news no one wants to get. My wife was diagnosed with small cell invasive carcinoma, a form of breast cancer. They were able to catch it early so the prognosis is mostly good. Since the diagnosis she has had to endure 3 painful MRI assisted biopsies.

If you know my wife, you know her physical and emotional strength. You know that she is a determined individual and has a great attitude and outlook on life. Many of you are going to ask, “What can I do?” You can go and get regular exams. You can encourage others to do the same.

We met with the medical staff at the hospital on what to expect, the surgeon, the oncologist, the radiologist, the nursing staff. We also had to meet with someone from BILLING and FINANCES. The surgeries and treatments she will have to have are understandably expensive. BUT- we WILL be able to afford this.

When we left the hospital we thought about how absolutely lucky we are. The cancer was caught early. We live in an area of the country where our local hospital (less than 10 minutes away) has a wonderful cancer unit. We are lucky because she has a great support group of friends. We are lucky that we had a trip already planned and were able to talk to our adult children about this. We are lucky because our jobs have flexibility that will allow her to go to her appointments and I can be there when she feels it necessary. We are lucky that although as small business owners we have pretty horrible insurance that we will be able to afford all the necessary procedures.

Thinking of all the luck we had it made me think about others who may not have this kind of luck. My goal is to make her day to day life as stress free as possible. There are some people who just do not have that option. I cannot imagine someone facing the same diagnosis and wondering how they will afford the treatment. How they will get the necessary time off. Do they have to make a choice between LIVING and a car payment? Do they have to pick and choose which appointments they go to based on if they can get time off work? Do they have to handle everything on their own because their husband/partner or friend can not get the time off to help them? Do they go without groceries because of the expense of the medication? Do they not have the time to recover from procedures (where you are not allowed to lift more than 5 lbs) because they have a job to do or children to lift up?

My wife has never smoked, very rarely drinks, has lived a very clean life. Cancer sucks and it doesn’t care what kind of life you lead. It makes no sense that in today in the USA a person may need to have to make a choice between life saving care and food or work.

Healthcare should be Universal. There is no but. It should be Universal. Period. Universal health care is such a complex beast that only 32 of the world’s 33 developed nations have been able to make it work. The insurance companies are getting rich on our payments while denying our claims. People say they do not want the government involved in their health decisions. I get that. But you would trust a private company instead? The government wants you in the workforce. They want you to be able to work and to be able to pay taxes. A private company, they just want your money.

Politicians don’t want to tax millionaires and billionaires because they want the money for their campaigns. They do not want that money going to an opponent’s campaign. So taxes keep going up on the middle class. The working poor are left to fend for themselves. Told to pull themselves up by their boot straps when they can’t even afford boots. I miss the “old days” where billionaires’ vanity projects was to build public libraries, music venues and hospitals. I don’t get people like Elon Musk. If I had billions of dollars, I would impulsively start fixing stuff. Homeless vets? I don’t think so. Hungry children? Not on my watch. Cancer treatments- I got this. He could be Batman.
What a waste.

and so does our healthcare system

Relax… No One is Treading on You

Normally I try to get home for lunch. I eat healthier when I am home and I go outside for a walk with the dog. The other day I was stuck in town for lunch. I went to a place I know serves reasonably sized portion. I made the mistake of sitting at the lunch counter. Like at a bar, when you sit at the counter you are open to engagement and conversation with others. The engagement I got was just too much. I came for a sandwich. Not a lecture on how other people having rights some how steps on your. Not a discussion on your 1/2 baked conspiracy theories.

When people talk about constitutional rights like freedom of speech or religion, they often refer to them as guarantees. But no rights are absolute. Government has the power to limit individuals’ freedom under certain circumstances, like when they’ve committed a crime. You can have the constitutional right to carry a gun, BUT, should you have the right to carry that gun into a school? Does anybody think carrying a gun into a bar where you plan on drinking is a good idea?

The other person sitting at the lunch counter was all upset about gay marriage. I just fail to understand how by letting a couple who love each other get married is an infringement on your rights. When a gay couple is married, does that somehow make your marriage any less important or any less based on love and commitment? Does it stand in the way of you going to the church of your choice? Does it get in the way of a church sayings, “we will not allow gay marriage in this religion?”

The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution states: No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Rights are not Pie. When one group of people is given equal protection and rights, it does not mean another group has less.

When a member of the MAGA right describes a liberal they use the terms like “weak” “snowflake” “libtard”. Yet it seems like it is the MAGA rights who are most upset at things. It is the MAGA right that has weakened our government, our armed forces and our police. Any organization is only as strong as its weakest link. In the military they must train to be a well operating machine. But recently due to MAGA pressure a member of the military can decline a vaccine. Let’s get past COVID as some people still have a problem with science. If the next pandemic (and there will be one) is worse BUT there is a vaccine the military MUST be able to require everyone to take it. Not requiring it makes or military weak. The support for the military only goes as far as when they are fighting their battles. Eleven Republicans voted in August against a bill that funds research and benefits for as much as 3.5 million veterans who were impacted by toxic substances while they served.

The MAGA republicans want you to believe they support law enforcement but they are the group which beat up law enforcement officers at the capital. Despite the House and Senate coming to an agreement that will award the Congressional Gold Medal to the officers who defended the Capitol, 21 House Republicans voted against the legislation. These are the officers who put their bodies on the line to save the members of congress from harm.

In order for our country to grow and prosper we need to work together. As a long time business owner I am used to my decisions being respectfully challenged. I know that different opinions makes my business stronger. We need to show respect for one another. AND SOME OF YOU NEED TO REALIZE THAT NO ONE IS TREADING ON YOU.

Banning Books is Back… sigh…

Banning books has NEVER been about protecting our children. It has been about discrimination against others. Banning books from public libraries or schools based on nationalistic, political or religious reasons violates the first amendment. Currently they want you to believe that any book that does not center from a straight white perspective is pornographic.

When a group is trying to get a book banned they find the most explicit passages and recite them out of context.

I too am disturbed by the filth that Americans are reading.
Take, for example, a story in which two daughters live alone with their widowed father. They make a pact to get him drunk and trick him into having sex with them, after which they become pregnant and give birth to sons.

I am, of course, paraphrasing from the Bible, specifically genesis 19:33. a book that has been mass-printed since the fifteenth century and relied on as the primary text of all Christian faiths for millennia.

I find it interesting, that in the very place that students should be engaged in challenges to their own thinking in order to grow as learners, some are actively trying to make sure that schools are not able to create opportunities for that thinking?

The very groups who yell so loudly about cancel culture are the same people trying to cancel discussions about ideas that come to us through books?

By restricting information and discouraging freedom of thought, censors undermine one of the primary functions of education: teaching students how to think for themselves.

I think it is important for children to read about these adult situations before they face them in person.

Banning a book from a library or curriculum implies that some ideas and experiences are valuable or worthy of discussion and others are not. It reinforces one particular way of thinking and limits others, which might not accurately reflect the lived realities of youth.

The strength in our society can be found in our diversity. Diversity of people as well as ideas.

There is no gentle way to speak or teach about certain subjects.

  • The Holocaust
  • Pearl Harbor
  • Civil Rights / Lynchings
  • Violent acts 
  • 9/11

Students deserve to learn history based on facts not feelings. Some lessons will be hard and make people uncomfortable. But if I have learned anything it is that rarely is any important lesson an easy one.

A Season of Hope. Music

When we were young music would find us. It seemed like it was everywhere. You could hear it as cars drove by, you could hear it coming from house windows as you were outside playing. I remember sitting in my parents car waiting for them to come out of the grocery store. I was listening to the radio and James Taylor came on. It was the early 1970’s and I love listening to James Taylor ever since.

In middle school I saw a kid with a button on his jacket that said, The Ramones. I had no idea who they were. But that afternoon I walked down to Main Street Records and asked if I could listen to The Ramones. Still to this day, my favorite band. (Thanks Bob Cat!). I remember being at my friend Jeff’s house and his brother let us play a Rush Album. Just Amazing, everything from the lyrics and vocals to UNBELIEVABLE drumming. At Chris’ house he introduced me to BOTH AC/DC and Pink Floyd. Although I had heard some of each of those bands on the radio, it was the first time I think I may have listened to an entire album. I thank these friends for starting my lifelong love of music.

It seems now that the older you get you have to find the music. Maybe it is the speed of life. Maybe it is because of air-conditioning fewer windows are open! Sometimes music still surprises me. I was walking through town and a song was being played in a store. As the door opened, I was struck by 2 lines of lyrics:

In every movie I watch from the 50s,

There’s only one thought that swirls around my head now,

That’s that everyone there on screen they’re all dead now.

I recognized the voice of Ben Gabbard from Death Cab for Cutie. Couldn’t wait to get to my car to put that song on. I think I would discover more music if I just lived the the present a little more.

Sometimes It may be a song you’ve known for years, but actually listen to it with your ears for the first time. In High school I remember being completely exhausted physically and mentally. I cannot remember what was going on in my life at the time, but I do remember the feeling of hopelessness. I had gone into my room and closed the door. Put on the radio and laid down to take a nap.

At some point I slowly came back to consciousness to The Beatles song, “The Long and Winding Road”. I had heard the song countless times. It was already 15+ years old when I was in high school. But this was the first time that I really heard it with my ears and my heart. McCartney says “It’s a sad song because it’s all about the unattainable; the door you never quite reach,” he revealed. “This is the road that you never get to the end of.”

Hearing that song at that moment let me know that although this was a tough time, I was goin g to be OK. The road is long so concentrate in the journey, not just the destination.

To this day, when I hear this song I am transported back in time to my bedroom in 1983.

Is there a song that has changed your perspective? A song you recently heard that you can’t wait to share?

REMEMBER: 62 Things Donald Trump Did (that you may want to forget to preserve your sanity)

Donald Trump has returned to the news cycle amid a deluge of stories about a dinner meeting he hosted with a white supremacist and Ye, the rapper previously known as Kanye West.

It’s a reminder of the chaotic years of his presidency, as well as a foreboding ― though hopefully instructive ― warning about how he would wield power if elected again.

If past is prologue, let’s take a moment to remember just how unsettling things got during the Trump administration, with this not-even-remotely-exhaustive list of weird and bad stuff he attempted while in office:

  • Tried to buy Greenland.
  • Wanted to nuke hurricanes.
  • Doctored a hurricane forecast map with a Sharpie.
  • Attempted a coup to stay in power.
  • Absconded with thousands of classified documents, lied about it and refused to give them back when the feds asked nicely.
  • Sent unidentified federal officers to Portland, Oregon, to abduct protesters and spark a conflagration that could be used as a pretense for implementing martial law.
  • Ordered peaceful protesters tear-gassed so he could pose for a photo-op with a Bible outside a church.
  • Tried to blackmail Ukraine into manufacturing dirt for his 2020 campaign.
  • Asked Russia for help in his 2016 campaign — and got it.
  • Had a weird affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Remember the Helsinki summit?)
  • Invited Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to an in-person meeting in the Oval Office, where he accidentally revealed top-secret intelligence.
  • Wanted to withdraw the U.S. from NATO.
  • Separated migrant parents from their children, locked the kids in cages and then failed to reunite them.
  • Insisted that “raking” would prevent forest fires because “you’ve got to take care of the floors. You know the floors of the forest, very important.” 
  • Covered for Saudi Arabia after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the gruesome murder and dismemberment of a U.S. journalist with a bone saw. (Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, owes Saudi Arabia $2 billion, and the crown prince has reportedly bragged about having Kushner “in his pocket.”)
  • Intervened to get Kushner top-secret clearance after he was denied over concerns about foreign influence.
  • Put Kushner in charge of Middle East peace.
  • Embraced rampant nepotism.
  • Touted injecting disinfectant as a COVID-19 cure.
  • Touted ultraviolet light as a COVID-19 cure.
  • Touted hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 cure.
  • Touted ivermectin as a COVID-19 cure.
  • Told people not to wear face masks to cut down the spread of COVID-19, even though they work.
  • Actively discouraged COVID-19 testing.
  • Refused to send federal aid to New York City amid the first COVID-19 wave because the virus was hitting Democratic-voting states hardest.
  • “Jokingly” said on multiple occasions that he deserved to be president for more than two terms.
  • Thought climate change was a Chinese hoax.
  • Built an incomplete border wall that doesn’t work, wasn’t needed and wasn’t paid for by Mexico.
  • Started a trade war with China that mainly hurt U.S. consumers.
  • Threw food when angry.
  • Saw no problem with his vice president potentially being hanged by a violent mob he’d summoned and sent to the U.S. Capitol to disrupt the peaceful transition of power.
  • Stared directly at the sun.
U.S. President Donald Trump stares directly at the sun during a partial solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump stares directly at the sun during a partial solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017.
  • Started his presidency with an easily disproved lie about the crowd size at his inauguration.
  • Thought people needed an ID to buy cereal.
  • Fired James Comey as FBI director because he didn’t like the bureau investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. (Later, it was revealed that Trump’s campaign manager gave detailed internal polling data to a Russian intelligence agent.)
  • Was a “fucking moron,” according to Rex Tillerson, his secretary of state.
  • Fired the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s China-based pandemic response team — and then when a pandemic happened years later, said, “I don’t take responsibility at all” for COVID-19.
  • Repeatedly embraced racism.
  • Thought repeating “person, woman, man, camera, TV” would assure Americans of his mental stability.
  • Tweeted literal gibberish — a lot.
  • Lied all the time. (And still does.)
  • Openly embraced and amplified QAnon conspiracy theories.
  • Got impeached twice.
  • Passed huge tax cuts for wealthy corporations ― and massively grew the national debt.
  • Flip-flopped on whether the White House had ordered the USS John McCain be hidden so he wouldn’t get mad. (It did.)
  • Called American military members who died in the line of duty “losers” and “suckers.”
  • Claimed to have bone spurs to get out of military service.
  • Binge-watched Fox News when he should have been working.
  • Played so, so much golf.
  • Raked in cash from foreign interests at his Washington hotel in an operation sometimes described as the “epicenter” of a corrupt presidency.
  • Held a rally that may have led to the death of Herman Cain.
  • Allegedly directed his lawyer to commit campaign fraud to cover up that Trump cheated on his wife after she had recently given birth.
  • Was accused of sexual misconduct by more than two dozen women.
  • Dismissed any bad news about himself as “fake.”
  • Lied about voluntarily turning over his tax returns.
  • Ate well-done steak — with ketchup.
  • Described white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, as “very fine people.”
  • Grossly abused the presidential pardon on his way out the door.
  • Used private communication services extensively after arguing that Hillary Clinton should be jailed for having a private email server.
  • Refused to release White House visitor logs.
  • Went to Puerto Rico and threw paper towels at people desperate for actual hurricane aid.
  • Discouraged exercise because he believes bodies are like batteries, with a finite amount of energy.

How Four Decades of Tax Cuts Fueled Inequality

As average people struggle, the wealthy and big businesses benefit

Bloomberg Law

James B. Steele 

This story is a partnership between the Center for Public Integrity, a newsroom that investigates inequality, and Bloomberg Tax.

As a dense fog rolled over his California ranch, Ronald Reagan strolled to a table set up outside his adobe farmhouse and flashed photographers a radiant smile.

The president had much to smile about. Stacked on the table, awaiting his signature, was ERTA, the 185-page Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 that fulfilled his campaign promise to cut taxes in a big way.

The beneficiaries were largely high-net-worth individuals and corporations. What followed was a $750 billion hole in the federal budget, cuts in multiple public programs and a ballooning deficit.

But that was just the beginning. The bill signing on that foggy day set in motion a trend in tax policy that is supercharging America’s escalating income inequality. In the past four decades, Congress after Congress has cut taxes on the richest people and corporations —billions of dollars that would otherwise have gone to the federal till for spending that could help the rest of the public get ahead. 

Soon a new and politically split Congress will make decisions, by action or inaction, that will ripple for years to come. Leave the tax system as is? Rework it to the benefit of struggling people? Or keep cutting? The result could help determine which Americans can build up savings, how bad the racial wealth gap gets and whether longstanding pressure to cut safety-net programs succeeds.

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There have been some income tax increases over the past two generations, most recently the Inflation Reduction Act signed by President Joe Biden in August that levied a 15% minimum tax on corporations and a 1% excise tax on stock repurchases by public companies. But the trajectory has been in the opposite direction.

In 1980, the top income tax rate for individuals was 70%. Today it’s 37%.

The political forces behind that seismic shift haven’t stopped pushing for more. Already, House Republicans are proposing to extend or make permanent some of the most recent tax cuts.

President Reagan shows off his cowboy boots at the signing of the Economic Recovery Tax Act in 1981. 

Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Setting the Pattern

In the four decades since ERTA was signed, Republicans — with some assists from Democrats — have worked to dismantle a system where the wealthiest people pay substantially higher rates. They’ve tucked large breaks for the rich into proposals with small cuts for millions of other Americans. They’ve promoted tax cuts with claims about economic benefits that have not panned out.

“It’s vastly oversold that tax cuts will generate job and economic growth,” said William Gale, co-director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. “When you cut taxes for the upper income, you give them more after-tax income, but you don’t do anything for growth.”

ERTA charted the course in 1981. It cut the top tax rate from 70% to 50% on so-called unearned income — dividends from stocks and interest on bonds and savings. While modest tax breaks sprinkled throughout the bill affected millions of taxpayers, the top rate cut had just one constituency. Only the richest 2% of taxpayers were subject to taxes up to the 70% rate

Lowering that rate had long been a Republican goal, but the party’s lawmakers had been reluctant to propose it in ERTA for fear that voters would see them as favoring the rich. Instead, it was the Democrats who proposed it. It was a trade, a way to get Republican support for other provisions in the bill.

ERTA gave the wealthiest Americans who received dividend and interest payments a hefty yearly tax cut of $6.7 billion, the equivalent of $21 billion today. Out of 95 million taxpayers who filed that year, this bounty went to just 82,000: the richest sliver of the top 1%.

People in this group who received $250,000 in dividends owed $175,000 in taxes on them for the 1981 tax year. ERTA gave them a tax cut of $50,000 the next year — more than twice what the majority of American families lived on at the time. It was a gift that kept giving, year after year.

To fully understand the amount of money involved, think of it this way:

If the 70% rate were still on the books, taxpayers with more than $1 million in income in 2019 could have owed $87.9 billion more in taxes that year, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of IRS data. That’s more than enough money to rebuild and repair all the bridges and water systems across the country slated for work under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress in 2021.

Cutting taxes for the rich over the past 40-plus years has had a huge impact, leaving less money for public programs that benefit millions of Americans while enriching a tiny percentage of the population. Where once the code strove for a certain balance — the more you earned, the more you paid — the rates have been reduced so much that there’s not nearly as much difference now between the top tax rate a billionaire investor pays on their income and what a middle-class salaried professional pays on theirs.

Income inequality in America is at heights not seen for a century. A variety of factors have contributed, including the erosion of good-paying manufacturing jobs, deregulation, a weakened trade union movement and the elimination of pensions and other rungs in the safety net. But taxes have been a principal engine of worsening economic inequality simply because the wealthy, thanks to their success in Congress, now have more money — to buy stocks, invest in real estate, build megayachts, blast off into space and make campaign contributions to politicians so the cycle isn’t interrupted.

It wasn’t always this way.

For decades leading up to 1980, all incomes from top to bottom rose at nearly the same pace. But that changed dramatically afterward. While median family income was largely stagnant, top incomes soared.

In 1980, the top 4% of taxpayers earned as much as the bottom 39%. By 2019, the top 4% earned as much as the bottom 57%, according to a Public Integrity analysis of the most recent IRS data.

As more money flowed upward, the gap in accumulated wealth widened. In 2019, the top 10% of Americans had three times the wealth of everyone else in the country combined.

The Tax Reform Game 

The Tax Reform Act of 1986 was supposed to curb most tax shelters used by big corporations and well-to-do people — and it did. But in exchange for that, Democrats gave Republicans something they wanted: lowering the top rate on wages, salaries and all other personal income from 50% to 28%, the largest single drop in the history of the federal income tax.

Proponents contended that was justified. Thanks to tax shelters, they said, few wealthy people were paying the top rate.

However, the data shows that not every wealthy taxpayer was loaded with tax shelters, and the 1986 act gave them a big break.

In 1985, all taxpayers reporting income of $1 million and up had an average income tax of $910,931, according to IRS data. In 1988, the first year showing the full impact of the law, that same group paid $226,000 less on average.

For Reagan, the low rates were the heart and soul of the bill.

“Our Founding Fathers … never imagined what we’ve come to know as the progressive income tax,” Reagan said while signing the bill on Oct. 22, 1986. He said it “struck at the heart of the economic life of the individual, punishing that special effort and extra hard work that has always been the driving force of our economy. … I feel like we just played the World Series of tax reform — and the American people won.”

Some won much more than others.

IRS data shows that taxpayers with upwards of $40,000 in income received on average a modest tax cut of $603 a year. Upper-income Americans earning $500,000 to $1 million took home an average of $73,617. And those at the top received far more.

To those who knew how the benefits of tax reform had been oversold to average Americans, this came as no surprise. Daniel Halperin, a former assistant treasury secretary, told a congressional committee as the bill was being considered: “Over 40% of American families will either have a tax increase or no change.” People with the highest incomes, he said, would be “the biggest winners.”

Republicans claimed that the 1980s tax cuts would stimulate so much economic activity that tax receipts and budgets wouldn’t suffer. But by the end of the eight-year Reagan presidency, revenues were an unprecedented $1.3 trillion short of federal spending. That was more than three times the deficits for the eight years before Reagan — combined.

For years, Republicans have pointed to deficits as a reason to cut spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But there’s another way to deal with deficits: raise more revenue. In the 1990s, that’s what Congress did, increasing the top income-tax rate instead of cutting it.

Both hikes came from a Democratic-controlled Congress. The first lost Republican President George H.W. Bush re-election after he agreed to it. Then Democratic President Bill Clinton engineered an increase to 39.6% in 1993 that Republican lawmakers and conservative pundits said would kill jobs and sink revenue collection.

President Clinton, with Vice President Gore at his side, in 1993 signs a budget bill that included tax increases. 

Photographer: Renaud Giroux/AFP via Getty Images

Instead, the economy took off. Revenue jumped. Finally, there were budget surpluses for the first time in 30 years.

The federal government went back to running deficits again after President George W. Bush put through two tax cuts in 2001 and 2003.

While those tax bills contained modest cuts for most Americans, the benefits once again flowed largely to the rich: The top 1% of households received an average tax break of $570,000 for the eight-year period that followed the second bill, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

It wasn’t just a result of lowering the top rate to 35%.

For decades, dividends paid to shareholders — predominantly wealthier people — were taxed like salaries and wages. But the 2003 law created a new category called “qualified dividends.” What constituted such a dividend was complicated, largely how long the stock was held, but its main benefit was that it would be taxed at 15% rather than 35% for upper-income people.

An auto worker in Detroit who received $5,000 in qualified dividends might have saved $500 under the new law. An auto executive who received $100,000 in such dividends would have saved $20,000.

This tax break, narrowed since then but only modestly, has cost the U.S. Treasury an estimated $350 billion since 2004. Upper-income taxpayers have benefited the most.In 2019 alone, it was worth $16.2 billion to taxpayers earning $1 million or more.

To put that $16.2 billion in perspective: It’s the equivalent of the federal income taxes paid by everyone earning $50,000 or less in California, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin — combined.

President Barack Obama later signed legislation that made the tax break permanent, but he also steered tax increases through Congress, pushing the top rate back to where it had been under Clinton.

All this led to what would be the signature legislative triumph of the Trump presidency, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The sheer magnitude of the tax cuts it gave to the wealthy and corporations made the law the most significant since the Reagan era.

In 2019 alone, the tax cuts cost the U.S. Treasury $259 billion. Virtually half that money flowed to those earning $200,000 or more

Corporate Clout 

As Congress cut the taxes of wealthy Americans, it also slashed taxes on corporations. Their rate plummeted from 35% to the present 21% — the lowest in 80 years.

When the rate was higher, the largest U.S. companies avoided paying it through tax loopholes, one of the most lucrative of which let them stash their overseas income in offshore tax havens.

As billions and billions of corporate profits piled up offshore and began to approach $1 trillion, the companies fretted. A group that included Microsoft, Intel, Apple and Coca-Cola formed a lobby called the Homeland Investment Coalition to pressure Congress to change the law so they could bring that money back to the U.S. — at a lower tax rate than domestic corporations pay.

For example, while a local construction company in Des Moines might pay 35% on profits from building a high school in Iowa, the coalition proposed in 2003 that multinationals with foreign earnings would pay only 5.25% in U.S. taxes on profits earned from selling products or services outside the country.

Lawmakers were happy to help.

“We want job creation,” Sen. Gordon Smith, a Republican from Oregon, said when the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 was being considered with a provision he helped insert to make the tax holiday happen. “We want this to get to the shop floor, not to the corporate boardroom. … We want it to go to those things that will improve the productive capacity of American industry and the rehiring of American workers. We don’t want it to be part of some financial flimflam.”

But flimflam it was. After the bargain-basement tax break became law, companies did bring money back to the U.S. Nearly half the repatriated $312 billion came from just 15 companies, including Hewlett-Packard, Pfizer and Merck. The U.S. Treasury later estimated that the tax break benefited only 4% of American corporations.

How many jobs were created by the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004?


That’s according to a 2011 report by a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security committee. In fact, it found the 15 largest repatriating corporations cut jobs and reduced their overall U.S. workforce by 20,931 people.

The top companies increased stock buybacks, rewarding shareholders and boosting their executives’ pay — despite provisions of the 2004 law prohibiting use of the repatriated cash for those purposes.

It’s another way that tax changes are worsening both income inequality and the racial wealth gap, because stock buybacks disproportionately benefit high-income white Americans.

The 2004 repatriation “not only failed to achieve its goal of increasing jobs and domestic investment in research and development,” concluded the subcommittee’s report, “it did little more than enrich corporate shareholders and executives while providing an estimated $3.3 billion tax windfall for some of the largest multinational corporations.”

Congress responded by doing it all over again in 2017, giving the same group of companies a variation on the tax break it had awarded them in 2004.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 lowered the tax rate on most repatriated funds to 15% — not as bargain basement as in 2004, but still a dramatic cut — and gave multinational corporations a much longer holiday to bring the money home: eight years.

Promising that the tax break would “turn America into a job magnet,” President Donald Trump claimed that no less than $4 trillion would come back to the States. “This is money that would never, ever be seen again by the workers and the people of our country,” he said.

The money is coming back — but not to American workers or communities thirsty for corporate investment. Instead, just as in 2004, it is flowing to shareholders and executives. A report by the Federal Reserve found in 2019 that share buybacks for the 15 largest corporations holding offshore cash “rose sharply” after the law passed.

Money helps explain why this sort of thing keeps happening.

Every year corporations spend more than 85% of the total reported expenses associated with lobbying Congress. By contrast, labor unions, which represent interests of working people, account for less than 2%.

And though corporate donors lean Republican as a rule, they give generously to both parties. Over the past six election cycles, business-related donors contributed roughly $7 billion to Democrats and Republicans apiece, according to OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan body that tracks contributions.

Ellen Miller, who long oversaw Washington-based nonprofits that tracked the influence of money in politics, thinks that’s why Republican zeal to cut taxes was long met by less-than-energetic opposition.

“The campaign finance system we have that is inundated by corporate donors has kept Democrats asleep on this issue,” she said in an interview.

The so-called carried interest loophole is a perfect example of how companies use the influence they’ve bought.

Democrats and some Republicans have railed for years against the provision, which lets private-equity and hedge fund executives pay taxes on their pay at nearly half the going rate. Even Trump called for its end. The Inflation Reduction Act negotiated this year by Sens. Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin would have narrowed the loophole, but even that was too much for the private-equity industry.

Company lobbyists turned to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, a Democrat to whom investment firms have contributed $2.7 million in the past five years.

She killed the provision. The carried interest loophole lives on.

The ‘Angel of Death’ Loophole

Washington’s restructuring of another tax — one that affects only a handful of Americans — may best show how elected officials have shaped the tax system for the few.

In place since 1916, the estate tax has been defended by Democrats and some Republicans for many years to prevent what President Franklin D. Roosevelt once described as the “transmission from generation to generation of vast fortunes by will, inheritance, or gift.” Andrew Carnegie, one of the richest Americans and an income tax foe, had this to say about the estate tax: “Of all forms of taxation, this seems the wisest.”

But laws enacted by Republican-controlled Congresses slashed the number of taxpayers paying it from 27,568 in 1982 to 2,584 in 2021.

Collections, adjusted for inflation, were virtually unchanged over that period — even though household wealth among the rich exploded during that time.

That dramatic reduction in estate tax filings is the result of highly successful campaigns over the years by Republicans labeling it the “death tax” and advancing specious arguments about alleged injustices. One of the most popular was the claim that it forces the sale of family farms.

“They have wonderful farms, but they can’t pay the tax, so they have to sell,” Trump said in 2017.

But according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, several analyses have not turned up “a single farm that went out of business due to estate tax liability.”

Because of favorable laws and clever tax planning, the number of estate tax returns continues to plummet. “Only morons pay the estate tax,” Trump White House advisor Gary Cohn is said to have told congressional Democrats in 2017 when they were calling for a rate increase.

Even before cuts in the estate tax, the wealthy long ago figured out how to pass along the family fortune tax free: It’s called the “angel of death” loophole, the vehicle by which great wealth is passed from one generation to the next and allowed to compound tax free into even greater value. It is the foundation on which the wealth of some of America’s richest families is built.

It works like this.

Say you bought 1,000 shares of Widget Company stock at $50 a share in 1980. By 2022, the stock is worth 10 times as much. If you sell those shares, you’ll owe capital-gains taxes of $100,000. But if you die and leave those shares to your favorite niece, no tax is owed and your niece has escaped a $100,000 tax bill.

Estimates put the amount of lost tax revenue from this loophole as high as $54 billion a year.

Closing it is on Biden’s agenda, as it was on Obama’s, as it has been on tax reform agendas for decades. But still it exists, having avoided any serious challenge in recent years.

Contrast that plum preserved by Congress for the rich with what Congress took away from the middle class in the so-called SECURE Act in 2019 (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement).

Prior to the law, someone who inherited an IRA could withdraw payments from that retirement account over their entire life, thus stretching out taxes owed over many years, possibly decades. But SECURE mandated that withdrawals from an inherited IRA be taken within 10 years. Now a much larger portion of inherited IRAs will go to taxes because many beneficiaries will have to withdraw the money while in a higher tax bracket, before their own retirement.

That means a middle-class worker who inherits a $1 million IRA might pay $240,000 to $320,000 in taxes. A scion of a wealthy family who inherits $100 million in stock, meanwhile, pays no capital-gains taxes at the time and can cash it out whenever desired.

Activists take part in a 2021 demonstration at the US Supreme Court involving the Poor People Campaign, which has called for action on poverty, including higher taxes on wealthy people and big businesses.

Photographer: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for MoveOn

The Bottom Line 

The earnings of the majority of American families have been mostly stagnant since 1981, just barely keeping up with inflation. Think of it as standing still financially for 40 years.

No group of working Americans has paid a steeper price for income inequality in the tax-cutting past four decades than African Americans. Their median household income of $45,870 is nearly 40% lower than that of white households. Over the decades, “next to no progress has been made in closing the black-white income gap,” concluded a report for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in 2018. “The typical black household remains poorer than 80 percent of white households.”

Because Black families have fewer opportunities to set aside money and accumulate assets, the wealth gap between white and Black families is even worse. White families on average have six times more wealth than Black families: $983,400 for whites; $142,500 for Blacks, according to Federal Reserve data. Half of African American families have assets of less than $25,000.

And those numbers were compiled before COVID-19, a bigger financial hit to African Americans than any other racial or ethnic group, according to the Census Bureau.

For most of the period when the country had a more progressive tax system, racial discrimination was legal. By rule and practice, the U.S. government largely blocked Black families from accessing federal programs that helped white families build generational wealth.

In the past four decades, meanwhile, wealth-building opportunities for people with modest resources have been in short supply. Sixty percent of the country — the people on the less-income side of the scale — have a lower share of total assets in the U.S. now than in the late 1980s, according to the Federal Reserve.

It would take big change to turn that around. The tax provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act are only a modest step in that direction.

Biden’s original tax proposals were much more ambitious than what wound up in that law. He called for raising top tax rates on individuals back to the Clinton-era 39.6% and on corporations from 21% to 28%, taxing capital gains like wages, eliminating the “angel of death” loophole that allows the wealthy to pass their stock holdings to heirs tax-free, and many other provisions to shift more of the tax load to those at the top.

President Biden signs the Inflation Reduction Act on Aug. 16 as members of Congress look on. 

Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Public opinion polls show significant support for most of his tax proposals. But there’s virtually no hope for their adoption by the incoming Congress. As control of the House of Representatives shifts, Republicans can stymie Biden’s ambitions for a tax system that does more to blunt inequality. They can push to lock in Trump-era changes that would otherwise expire.

They can keep the trend Reagan set in 1981 going.

To Chuck Collins, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies who has been tracking income inequality for years, it is more urgent than ever that the U.S. do something about the growing chasm between those at the top and everyone else — something besides making it worse.

“Our current policies are propelling us toward a society that even the rich don’t want,” he said, “with the ultra-wealthy living in walled, gated communities driving bulletproof Mercedes, a precarious middle class with a larger percentage of people with no financial reserves.

“You don’t want your children growing up in an apartheid society. It creates volatility and social and political instability. Which is what we are wading into now.”

Journalist James B. Steele reported this story for the Center for Public Integrity in partnership with Bloomberg Tax. He has twice won the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of federal taxes and is the co-author most recently of America: What Went Wrong? The Crisis Deepens.

To contact the reporter on this story: James B. Steele at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jamie Smith Hopkins at; Bernie Kohn at

Is America The Greatest Country Ever?

I made the mistake of checking twitter as I was waiting for my flight to South Carolina. The very first tweet I read sent me over the edge.

I know I shouldn’t have read it and I know you can’t fact check someone who basically lives their life in the fact free MAGA universe:

Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio)

“55% of Democrats don’t think that America is the greatest country ever. “


“Crime has gotten so bad in liberal cities that stores are having to close early for safety reasons”

I know he is just baiting and trolling but the lack of intelligence and out right misinformation is stunning.

IF it is true that 55% of Democrats (or anyone) don’t think that America is the best country ever, all it is saying is that we have room for improvement.

I have lived in other countries. I CHOOSE to live here. There are many things that USA does great on. AND there are things we need to improve on.

Despite having the MOST police per capita and spending the MOST money on police and law enforcement IN THE WORLD the USA has the highest rate of violent crime (including murder, rape, school shootings, armed robbery) the highest rate of drug abuse and the highest incarceration rate as well as total prison population on the entire globe.

CLEARLY our criminal justice system is not working properly. Both Democrats and Republicans have been throwing money at the problem for decades. More money, more police, more tactical armor and vehicles in cities does not seem to be working.

To find the answer you need someone smarter than me. Liberals get accused of throwing money at a problem to fix it but both the left and the right have been throwing money at this problem for years and it doesn’t seem to be working. The “fiscally conservative” GOP wants to put even more money into this hoping it will go away. It seems when they preach about fiscal responsibility they are talking about YOU not THEM. When was the last time the GOP pushed for a middle class tax cut? They continue to cut taxes for the highest earners and hope that the money trickles down to us. Trickle down economics was debunked as a scheme (voodoo economics) in the 1980s.

Defund the police? NO

Require better education and training of those involved in the criminal justice system? YES. Most police officers in Europe get more than 5000 hours of training compared to just over 500 in the USA.

Do we need more police? No. We need better police.

The rate of murders in the USA has gone up at an alarming rate. Despite a media narrative to the contrary and an ill-informed tweet by Rep Jordan, this is a problem that afflicts GOP run cities and states at much or MORE than Democratic bastions.

In 2020, per capita murder rates were 40% higher in states won by Trump than those won by Biden. 8 of the 10 states with the highest murder rates in 2020 voted for the GOP presidential nominee in every election this century.

Other things which need improvement:

– The USA has the highest percentage of obese people in the world.

– The USA has highest divorce rate in the world by a wide margin

– The USA spends MUCH more on health care than any nation on the face of the earth.

– Americans have more student loan debt than anyone else in the world.

– The percentage of women taking antidepressants in America is higher than any other country in the world.

We can be better. Our citizens deserve better. Representative Jordan doesn’t address any problems or provide any solutions. He just wants you to hate the other guy. This is no way to run a house or a business let alone a country.

Is America the greatest country? We Could Be….